I made a fairly last-minute decision to run the Tralee Marathon directors run on Sunday March 22nd, after getting a call from Brian O’Se asking if I’d do it. To be honest, the last thing on my mind was running another marathon, especially on the testing Tralee course, before the Listowel Marathon on April 18th. However, once asked, there was never going to be any answer but yes – what can I say, I have a running problem.
A small group of us set off at 9am on Sunday morning from the Tralee Marathon start line, with more than a small sense of déjà vu, and memories of the official marathon just one week earlier. This time there were no cheering crowds, no press photographers, and no festive atmosphere, but there was a brilliant sense of camaraderie and a team spirit you rarely get in the running world.
It felt strange running through Tralee without all the fanfare of the week before, and all we got this time was some odd looks from tourists!
It was a fantastic day to run a marathon – bright blue skies, temperatures at this time of morning were cool enough, but with the promise of lots of sun later. We had a great support crew following us, and, because none of us were going for a time, we made full use of them – we stopped every few miles for some food and drink (and a cigarette in the case of one of us!), and we used our ultra running walk/run method, making this a really comfortable and sociable run.
Two of the group decided to make it a half-marathon when we got to Ardfert, as they had both picked up their full marathon medal the previous week, and felt a half was enough for today.
The rest of us continued on, though one of our group, Sinead, wasn’t actually running the full marathon course – she intended to run “only” 21 miles, as this was her long run for the upcoming Paris marathon – the old heads among us knew that she was very unlikely to stop at mile 21, when another 5 would get her a medal, but she was adamant she wouldn’t be going the full distance.
By the time we got to Banna, the sun was blazing in the sky, and it was turning out to be one of the best days of the year so far. The banter on this run was fantastic, I’ve never laughed so much on a run, and it felt more like a short training run than a marathon – several of us who had trained together for last years Tralee 100k remarked on how it felt very like those training sessions.
Although it was very hot at times, our slow pace and regular walking breaks meant it never felt like hard work – if all marathons were this easy, I’d run one every week!
Some of the “aid station” breaks (taken out of the back of Ashley’s car!) will remain with me for a long time, as we laughed and joked around, and remembered some of the funny incidents from previous runs we’ve done together – it made me realise how great it is to have a group like Born To Run to share my running journey with.
When we got in to Fenit, it hit me how different this marathon was from the previous weeks – no tiredness in the legs, and I felt like I could go on forever. At Fenit, Sinead finally admitted that medal fever had taken hold, and she would finish the full marathon with us – though we all knew this already anyway! She also showed us some of her stretching moves in the carpark – these can only be described as quite remarkable…..
From Fenit, we had a long run in to the Kerries, a road we all agreed is horrible to run (I’ve shared my thoughts on this before!) but today it seemed shorter than usual, and, after a brief refuelling stop at The Oyster, we were on the home stretch into Tralee.
The Kerries hills were just as tough as they always are, but with each other for company, we got through them. We were joined on this stretch by Joanne and Maeve, who came to see us home, though they did it the smart way, on bikes!
When we reached Tralee, I was really starting to feel the tiredness in my legs, but pressed on with the finish line in sight.
We all crossed the line together, holding hands, in what must be one of my favorite moments ever as a runner.
After getting our medals (my second Tralee Marathon medal in a week, and, counting the 100k, my fifth Tralee medal in total!), it was off to Denny Street for coffee, compliments of Marie (Mammy) O’Shea.
This will go down as one of my most memorable marathons ever, not because of times, or route, or conditions, but because of the brilliant bond of friendship between those who did it. I will never win a marathon, or do a time that will impress a great runner, but I will have some truly great runs, and this was one of them.
Some of the most memorable moments – Marilyn putting a mouthy cyclist in his place, the shouted advice I got when suffering from ice-lolly brainfreeze, the best vaseline strapline ever, the fact that every dog loves Brian’s new hairstyle, and many more – will remain with me for a long time.
Thanks to everyone who ran some, or all of it: Jim, Marilyn, Brian, Ann, Sinead, Gretta, Breda, Ashley, Danny, and Sandra. To the best support crew anyone could wish for: Ashley, Danny, and Sandra. To the friends and clubmates who came out to support, help, and encourage: Joanne, Maeve, Karen, Marie, Catherine, Adam, and Lee. If I forgot anyone, blame my memory, because it is definitely not a lack of appreciation! Thanks to you all, you make the actual running bit seem easy.